Meet the Jazz Baron
Timme Rosenkrantz (July 6, 1911-August 11, 1969) was a Danish journalist, photographer, author, concert and record producer, broadcaster and entrepreneur with a consuming passion for jazz and little head for business. Known in New York and Denmark as the Jazz Baron, he liked to trace his family back to the Rosencrantz in Shakespeare's "Hamlet." Timme was the first white European journalist to report on the jazz scene in Harlem, from 1934 until mid-1969.
"What set him aside from the rest of us," observed Doug Dobell, a London record store owner and jazz producer friend, "was that he LIVED the music as no other non-musician has — in fact as few musicians ever have. Take it from Ellington, Tatum, Hawkins, Holiday and Waller — who re-Christened him Honeysuckle Rosenkrantz — there was scarcely a musician he didn't know intimately."
Rosenkrantz is credited with discovering and being first to record the pianist Erroll Garner. Several LPs from those home-recorded sessions were released by Blue Note and later on many other jazz labels. He also found and recorded the saxophonist Don Byas, the trombonist Tyree Glenn, and the black singer Inez Cavanaugh, who became his life companion.
Young Timme's interest in jazz was kindled by a big record collection that consumed all his money as a teenager. He bought The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Bix Beiderbecke, Joe Venuti, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. "Pops" and the Duke later became his friends and admirers.
An apprentice-trained journalist, Rosenkrantz founded and published one of the first European jazz journals, Jazzrevy, in 1935-36. He authored several books, started and edited other magazines, reported for Scandinavian newspapers and magazines, and wrote articles for international periodicals such as Down Beat, Metronome and Esquire in America, and The Melody Maker in England.
In 1938, armed with his coronet-emblazoned calling card, Baron Rosenkrantz called on RCA Victor in New York and charmed a top executive into letting him organize a dream band and produce a two-side shellac record titled "Timme Rosenkrantz and His Barrelhouse Barons." Timme wrote that three years after its worldwide release, he received a royalty check for $13.80.
In June 1945, Rosenkrantz produced a jazz concert at New York's Town Hall. He returned to Copenhagen to organize the first postwar concert tour for an American jazz band, the Don Redman Orchestra. In New York again in 1947, he arranged Friday jam sessions at Café Bohemia in Greenwich Village and then at The Famous Door, on Fifty-second Street. In later years he had his own record and talk shows on Danish state radio and on music station WNEW in New York. He introduced the records of the Swedish clarinetist Stan Hasselgard and other Scandinavian artists to an American audience.
The Jazz Baron was always an unlucky businessman. A record shop he and Inez opened in Harlem stayed open for one happy year. Two clubs the couple started, in Paris and Copenhagen, also had short but sweet lives.
Rosenkrantz's relationships with black and white musicians and singers are told in dus med Jazzen: mine Jazz memoirer (Copenhagen: Chr. Erichsens Forlag, 1964). Here are action scenes of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, Art Tatum, Willie "The Lion" Smith, Eddie Condon, Billie Holiday and many others. This first English adaptation of the Danish memoir hopefully will garner more readers in English-speaking lands.